Jamaica’s popular boxing series, the Wray & Nephew Contender, starts tonight at the Chinese Benevolent Association auditorium with a five-round contest between Jamaica’s Sakima Mullings and Canada’s William ‘The Punisher’ Matthews. Before the main bout, which will be televised live by Television Jamaica, at 9:30 p.m., there will be two amateur bouts, starting at 8:30 p.m.
The series brings together eight junior middleweight boxers (154 pounds) from Jamaica and eight rivals from Canada. There will be eight fights over five rounds each in the preliminary round, and four more over the same distance in the quarter finals to be followed by two semi-finals over seven rounds, and then the grand final, which will be over 10 rounds, with the winner being crowned Wray & Nephew 2017 junior-middleweight Contender champion. First prize money is $2,000,000, second prize is $500,000, third prize is $250,000 and fourth prize is $200,000.
In tonight’s encounter, the No. 1 seed Jamaican, Mullings, with a record of 19 wins, including 14 knockouts, and three losses, will be going up against a Canadian with only three fights, one win and two draws. He had a 10-1 amateur record, with most of those fights ending by knockout. On paper, this is clearly a mismatch, but the Canadians have said that their man will be up to the task and will give a good account of himself. Matthews has predicted that he will win tonight. The question is, whether this is fact or fiction.
A CONFIDENT MULLINGS
Mullings, who is 34 years old, is also confident of victory and has stated categorically that “the Contender title will be staying in Jamaica this year, and I will be the man doing it”.
He was referring in this statement to the fact that an American, Demarcus ‘Chop Chop’ Corley, won the welterweight version of the series last year. Mullings started boxing professionally in 2010, and his major achievements have been winning the World Boxing Council Caribbean welterweight title in 2013 and the Contender welterweight title in 2014.
This records point to Mullings being the winner, but “not so”, said Matthews and his camp to The Gleaner yesterday. Matthews and his head trainer, Jackie Armour, are very confident of victory. Matthews, who is 36 and has been boxing for only two years, said that boxing has saved his life and made him into a man.
“I was a mess three years ago, and following a friend to the gym one day changed me. I was fat and weighed over 180 pounds, but boxing changed all of that. l have trained hard and have made this sport my life. I now enjoy every day. I work hard, I do not drink anymore, I am dedicated.”
Matthews has a Jamaican father, who he says he has not seen for maybe more than 20 years.
“I am not interested in seeing him. I was, however, nurtured by my Jamaican grandparents, with whom I grew up, and they gave me my Jamaican heritage, of which I am proud. I am taking that into the ring with me on Wednesday. I am going to share my victory with Jamaica, even though I am fighting for Canada,” were his final words.